Controversial move aims to reduce traffic and improve air quality; charge to the public will be applicable to more cars, too
Transport for London (TfL) is removing the Congestion Charge exemption for private hire vehicles in a slew of air quality improvement and congestion-busting measures.
From 8 April 2019, the Congestion Charge will apply to all private hire vehicles emitting more than 75g/km of CO2 and with an electric-only range of less than 20 miles, if the legislation is pushed through. The plan will go into consultation in the days to come, but is expected to come to fruition.
Also from 8 April 2019, the Ultra Low Emission Discount will be replaced by a Cleaner Vehicle Discount, which brings the standard for entering the Congestion Charge zone for free from Euro 5 to the same threshold of 75g/km of CO2 and 20-mile electric-only range, cutting eligibility of the current London fleet by around 10%. This is a direct attempt to push people into plug-in hybrid and electric cars, with the threshold to be further tightened to electric cars only in 2021.
Alex Williams, TfL’s city planning boss, said: “The Congestion Charge has had a real impact on improving London’s roads for all since it launched 15 years ago. However, over that time, the availability and standard of low-emission vehicles has greatly advanced and the number of private hire vehicles entering the zone during charging hours has rocketed. It is only right that we keep the discounts and exemptions for the scheme under review to make sure it continues to be effective.”
TfL makes no secret that the move is aimed at cutting the number of private hire cars on London’s roads, with a 45% reduction in private hire cars mooted by TfL research. This would reduce congestion and, consequently, emissions, according to the organisation.
The move is seen by some as taking advantage of private hire drivers, since black cabs will still be exempt, due to laws banning drivers from refusing any journey less than 12 miles. GMB union professional drivers secretary Simon Rush saying: “We at the branch always suspected that TfL would bring out a consultation on removal of our Congestion Charge exemption as yet another way to cover the shortfall of their income as central government has removed a large amount of funding.”
The charge will cost private hire drivers for firms such as Uber up to £57.50 a week, because cars that fall outside the threshold will now have to pay £11.50 per day to enter the zone.